The national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has finally spoken out about Amotekun, the controversial security outfit created by the six governors in the south western part of Nigeria, saying the security outfit was not properly constituted.
Tinubu, in a lengthy statement clarifying his stand on the issue, said there is no way Amotekun can be a threat to the unity or foundation of Nigeria. His position, in which he called Amotekun an inoffensive addition to the security of the country was made available to Legit.ng by his spokesperson, Tunde Rahman. The politician, who called it a limited, inoffensive addition to security, wondered why those who should know more about security in the country are the ones describing it as a threat to the nation’s unity.
He also took on those who argue in favour of the security outfit without even having a deeper understanding of the situation around it, but based on sentiments.
Question those in favour of Amotekun. Most have but the vaguest notion about it. They know few details yet vigorously attribute to its opponents the most negative intentions. “Ask those who oppose Amotekun. They are equally ignorant of its provisions. They oppose the initiative not on its merits but merely because it was proposed by their political opponents or because they don’t see an avenue for personal gain from it,” Tinubu said. The former governor said he does not see any attempt by the attorney-general to malign the governors from the south west with his claim of Amotekun’s illegality. He, however, questioned the choice of words used saying things could have been said without hurting individual egos.
This is an opportunity to more clearly define that federalism; but one cannot attain this better, more functional definition through overblown, emotional language. Objectivity and calmness are required. To a significant degree, the enduring quality of our republic will be established by the sagacity with which we handle disagreements regarding the division of power between federal and state governments. Such disagreements are inevitable. This is not the first. Nor will it be the last. We must devote our energies more toward solving problems rather than amplifying them.
Seeking to fulfil their mandates by helping protect their people, the governors of the Southwest collectively established a program to buttress existing security mechanisms. Seeking to protect the constitution as best he could, the Attorney-General offered his opinion on what he believed the governors have sought to do. No one can blame either party for seeking to fulfil what they genuinely see as their public duty. Until now, I have deliberately maintained a studied silence regarding Amotekun. Many have tried to goad my swift public reaction. Those who have taken this road did so not because they care about Amotekun or even the people it intends to help protect. They did so knowing this had become a delicate and emotional issue for many. These cynics did so with the adversarial hope that, in haste, I might misspeak or misstep in a manner they could twist to their political advantage. Such people are possessed of a mercenary aspect that permits them to sacrifice almost anything, even jeopardize the very foundations of our political unity, if they might exact personal gain from the upheaval. In that they know no nobler purpose than their own appetites, we should feel sorry for them. However, we must not allow our sympathies for their barren condition to persuade us that there is worth in their destructive misconduct. They must be left to the consequences of their own devices.
If truly I am a political leader as I am often described, then I have not the luxury of hasty, ill-conceived utterances. There are those who will use inflamed words to spark the passions of others. This may bring transient applause. But when the cheers fade, we shall only have further descended because their words were never inclined toward resolution and long-term improvement but toward short-term popularity and perpetual confrontation. I believe in this nation and its benign prospects. I dearly love its people, all of them. Over the years of our existence, they have suffered much. Yet they still hold forth with heroic patience and an extraordinary optimism born of strong faith. To these people I owe my best. I shall not treat them cheaply or bandy their emotions like some errant football. The welfare of this good and decent people is my overriding concern. Equally, I do not cow to the demands of those who press for me to make a premature statement on an important issue. Again, that is a game devised by those who care more about political cleverness than the quality of governance. I chose to talk when my position has been made ripe by a collection of the facts and a reasonable assessment of those facts.
As I view it, this matter can be divided in three major parts: 1) substantive merits of Amotekun, 2) decision-making and consultative process and 3) recommendations on the way forward.
As the highest elected official in his state and thus the individual embodiment of the will of the people, a governor must view safety and security as a foremost priority, integral to his mandate. To turn a blind eye to these concerns would be a grave dereliction. That the SW Governors seek to work together to complement the extant security architecture is, in principle, a commendable undertaking. In embracing this concept, they have acted in consonance with spirit of their offices for the better interests of their people. As governor of Lagos state, I confronted a burgeoning criminal menace. I could not sit idly in the face of the violence and property destruction that struck genuine fear in the hearts of the people. The police tried as best they could; but their coverage was thin. They simply did not have the personnel or material wherewithal to be everywhere at once. We formed neighbourhood watch to help fill the gap.
Our aim was not to replace existing structures but to complement and augment them. The mission of neighbourhood watch was to monitor the wards and neighbourhoods of the state. The group would gather information and intelligence to pass to the police and security authorities. The neighbourhood watch also provided an early warning system to keep citizens from harm’s way. The idea worked. Crime and violence reduced significantly. Even the overreaching Obasanjo government did not contend against neighbourhood watch. Judging from the public statements of the governors, Amotekun is meant to be structured along similar lines. As I understand it, Amotekun is to be another set of eyes and ears to assist the police. As such, it is but the second generation of Neighbourhood Watch expanded to a regional scale. Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with this. It does not appear to insult the constitution. However, my position regarding Amotekun is not blind or uncritical; there are several organisational and functional aspects of the proposal that could cause some problems if left unresolved.
First, the stated mission is information gathering by civilians. Such tasks are always and everywhere best done in low-key fashion. Some aspects of Amotekun seem to undermine rather than enhance this function. Second, equipping Amotekun with showy paraphernalia may cause the public to misconstrue the role of Amotekun, incorrectly believing its mandate is more expansive than it is. This possible disconnect could impede the good aims of the program. We also should consider that the Buhari administration has approved implementation of a policy of community policing wherein additional recruits from all 774 local government areas will be added to the force to help protect their own communities. As the federal government emphasizes grassroots policing it is uncertain how well Amotekun can complement the police force as the force moves toward greater decentralisation when Amotekun is organisationally leaning in the opposite way. We have been fighting for local and decentralised policing for a long time because we know that too much centralisation impedes performance. In regard to actual performance of its appointed tasks, Amotekun should have focused on grassroots local organisation at the state level without a regional command hierarchy. The regional approach may undermine efficiency. There is no compelling logic why the same personnel providing security & informational assistance in Ado-Ekiti should be under the same functional and operational leadership as those providing assistance in Lekki or Akure. This will not lead to optimal performance.
The regional approach has only limited benefit with regard to the procurement and maintenance of vehicles and communications equipment because this wider approach allows for economies of scale. The regional approach also helps tackle the growing incidences of interstate criminal activity. Some things need to be corrected before Amotekun becomes operational. If not, it will not live up to expectations. Thus, the current formulation of Amotekun is in need of repair before it takes to the road only to quickly slip into a ditch.
The governors state that they consulted regularly with the police and security agencies. This was the right thing to do. However, their failure to include the office of the attorney-general in these discussions is the fount of the current public uproar. This was an unfortunate omission the governors should regret and seek to remedy. However, the conceptual merits and positive functional aspects of Amotekun should not be tainted by this procedural defect.